I apologize for the tardiness of this post. Timeliness has never been my forte.
Far be it for me to resort to excuses, but my laptop was recently infected with a nasty virus that has prevented me from posting regularly/semi-regularly. So, until it's fixed/cured, it may be a few days in between posts.
I spent the first ten minutes prior to this post thinking of the right word(s) to best sum up the Fenway Football Challenge a couple of days ago. And honestly? I still don't think the post title does the experience any justice.
Originally, this post was going to be a running blog of the time between 5pm Wednesday through 12:30am Thursday, complete with pictures, captions, and a few corny jokes for good measure. Alas, the USB cord for my digital camera slipped into a coma - I'm not ready to declare it dead just yet - and thus, I can only post my thoughts for now. Once the cord comes back to life or is heartlessly replaced with a newer model, I will be sure to post the photographic evidence.
As referenced in my previous post, I took in the game with my father, who, as I've noted on a few occasions, is not the world's biggest soccer fan.* Nevertheless, my dad entered the game with an open mind, as well as his old school Detroit Tigers hat for good measure.
(*Yet, at least. I'm still giving him time, though.)
We arrived about ten minutes prior to the opening whistle because, well, arriving late is part of being an O'Connell. That, and scheduling family get-togethers two days in advance of the date. We can't help it; we're like that.
Once we arrived at our seats - which, in typical Fenway fashion, had an obstructed view thanks to the Pesky Pole - I stopped and stared at the field. And I'm not going to lie: it was quite bizarre to see a baseball field I watch on TV nearly every night between April and October to sport goalposts and soccer players on it. It was like being on a different planet and, quite possibly, a different dimension. It was a little jarring, actually.
But once the opening whistle was blown, I reclaimed my bearings. I suspect that my dad must have also experienced the same set of thoughts when he suddenly blurted, "Brian, they're playing SOCCER here!" I'm pretty sure my dad couldn't believe it, either.
Once our eyes finally began to believe, a decent game started to play itself out. The first half featured a few good touches, a handful of good runs, but nothing overly spectacular. Some (including the row of soccer virgins behind us) thought it was boring. And maybe it was, to the casual observer. In hindsight, I believe the first half was simply the perfect opportunity for the soccerheads in the crowd to fully grasp the concept., because the second half became an end-to-end offensive onslaught.
The soccer gods were clearly with my dad and I, as remaining 45 minutes featured Sporting attacking the Celtic goal planted in front of us. And attack they did. With Liedson leading the charge, the Portuguese set up shop right in front of our eyes. With each attack, the tenision grew. After Celtic stole the first goal from a penalty, Sporting relentlessly pursued the equalizer. They found it in the 81st minute.
With the score level entering the 90th minute, it was announced that if it remained tied, PKs would be rolled out to declare a winner. Aiiieee.
Despite this obvious bastardization of the game, which took place at the goal right next to us in right field, I succumbed to excitement. The PKs were thrilling, even if they were completely manufactured. When Liedson punted his over the bar, and Paul McGowan clinched it, it was pandemonium. Good pandemonium. The kind of pandemonium that will likely remain with me for a lifetime.
It was everything I expected it to be, and then some. It was the experience of a lifetime. Heck, we hadn't even landed on the moon the last time soccer was played at the Fens. Hopefully, it won't be another 40 odd years before football returns to Fenway.